Lynn Mackenzie was still just a tot when she was thrown into the sea by her grandmother.

She was even younger when she became a member of Brighton Swimming Club – the same granny enrolled her on the day she was born.

Her family have been at the heart of the club for more than 100 years. It’s their tradition to join up at the earliest opportunity and Lynn, now 76, has never looked back.

On Monday, Brighton Swimming Club celebrated its 160th anniversary. It is the oldest in the country.

But – through high seas, ice-cold winds and even when there is snow on the beach – what is it that keeps bringing bathers back? What’s the secret of its enduring appeal?

There must be something in the water.

“I think you’ve got to be a bit mad to swim in the sea,” laughed Margaret Tuppen, 85, the club’s president. “Especially at this time of year.”

She has been a member since 1986 and added: “It’s a great life though – we have a thoroughly good time.”

Club chairman John Kent agrees. “Sea swimming is great – but you’ve got to have a screw slightly loose to do it,” he said. “You get such a sense of wellbeing, even in the winter. The cold water is invigorating. And you get a very different perspective from down in the waves.

“Our members – particularly the sea swimmers – all do it for their own reasons. Some want to swim the Channel, some want to keep fit, others just want to bob, but they all love doing their thing. There’s something uniquely Brighton about it – like-minded people getting together to share their passion irrespective of age, gender or anything else.

“We have 500 members across the board, aged five to 95. Lots of the older swimmers have been members since they were kids. Some of the families have been there since the early days of the club and there’s a real sense of pride in its history.”

Brighton Swimming Club was founded in 1860. The first meeting was on May 4 and it was officially named on May 11.

But this year celebrations are muted and the anniversary comes at a difficult time. There was set to be a synchronised swimming performance at the Brighton Festival Fringe this weekend, but along with the annual Pier to Pier race, it has been cancelled amid the Covid-19 restrictions.

The festivities have been postponed and for now, the club has had to close its doors.

John said this anniversary was particularly poignant. The younger swimmers’ regional championships this month have had to be cancelled, along with sessions to show new sea swimmers the ropes. “We’re missing the water,” he said.

For Lynn, the veteran swimmer who has been part of the club since birth, it’s been tough. Because she is over 70, she has had to put up with more rigorous restrictions than most.

She said: “I haven’t been in the sea for a while now – I’ve been staying home during the coronavirus lockdown. We’re not meant to be naughty.”

She’s been coping by taking regular dips in the pool in her Stanford Avenue back garden.

And, with a history as long and rich as that of the Brighton Swimming Club, there are always memories she can turn to. They help her look ahead to the time when she’ll be able to get back in the water.

Lynn said: “My grandmother enrolled me the day I was born, just like all my siblings and cousins. I was just chucked in as a child.

“My first memories of the club are plunging from a diving board and swimming up through a ring. My mother Maudie Ottaway was a great coach. I had to take up synchronised swimming just to get her to stop timing me.

“I like the cold. I don’t wear a wetsuit in the winter. I wear my swim suit, a swimming hat, neoprene socks and gloves if it’s chilly.

“I just have to be in the water. I love it. We all do.

“I’m a bit of a coward now. I don’t go out far – I just swim along the shore. Still, some days it’s very odd. I remember swimming out in the mist with paddle boarders looking like they’re walking on water. As far as swimming’s concerned, Brighton’s the only place for me. Nobody judges you here. And I have to be close to the sea.”